A Platform for Living

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Setsumasa and Mami Kobayashi’s weekend retreat, two and a half hours northwest of Tokyo, is “an arresting concept,” photographer Dean Kaufman says, who documented the singular refuge in the Chichibu mountain range. “It’s finely balanced between rustic camping and feeling like the Farnsworth House.”

The house is designed by Shin Ohori of General Design Co., the structure—Setsumasa bristles at the word “house,” since his desire was for something that “was not a residence”—and its wooded surroundings serve as a testing ground for the Kobayashis, who design outdoor clothing and gear (as well as many other products) for their company, …….Research. The shelter is constructed from locally harvested larch wood and removable fiberplastic walls and is crowned with two yellow dome tents used as year-round bedrooms.

Still, this is no primitive lean-to. There’s electricity, hot water, and a kitchen—not to mention iPads, Internet, and a clawfoot tub. By day, the couple trims trees and chops firewood. At night, they sit around a campfire and eat Japanese curry, listen to Phish, and balance their laptops on their knees. This is what a modern back-to-the-land effort looks like.

The long, lean Kobayashi complex includes a bathroom and storage room in the structure on the far right.

Setsumasa and Mami Kobayashi are ready for adventure. Mami and Ishii Hideaki also prepare lunch in the cozy main building. The room is rustic and utilitarian, with a double-decker wood-burning stove, tons of open storage, and a sink fashioned from galvanized buckets. But there’s an underlying high-design ethos: The wire baskets are handmade classics from Korbo, a Swedish company, and what looks like a paper-wrapped box in front of the stove is actually a leather cushion by Japanese artist Nakano.

The picture displays Inside one of the Kobayashis’ North Face tents.

Scenes from a weekend a weekend in the woods feature many …….Research products, including camping cookware and striped wool blankets.

Designed by Shin Ohori of General Design Co., the structure—Setsumasa bristles at the word “house,” since his desire was for something that “was not a residence”

A stockpile of wood sheltered from the elements.

Mami and Goo the Kishu dog return from a frolic in the forest, which the couple, along with Hideaki, has thinned and trimmed back over many weekends. It’s an idyllic escape and a world away from the concrete expanse of Tokyo.

Even in cold weather, they open the sliding doors to let the fresh air in.

The ultimate luxury: a hot bath in the clawfoot tub, with the fiberglass door open wide to the woods. I love this retreat….I wish one day everyone of us to make their dreams come true, because such a place is a dream one, and those people are completely free and have great spirtuality, that’s why they can use it and that’s why they deserve it….

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  1. I love this house – and love the clawfoot in a contemporary space. We sell clawfoot baths on (shameless plug alert http://www.clawfoot.com ) and would love to support anyone building a house (sorry, residence 🙂 as contemporary as this but using retro-icons like a slipper bath or clawfoot tub. Must be someone out there…? Dani

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